What is Communication Impairment?

What is communication?

Communication involves speaking, hearing, listening, understanding, social skills, reading, writing and using your voice.

What is a communication impairment?

People who have difficulty communicating may require assistance with one or more of the following:

Speech: saying the sounds in words so that people can understand what is being said. For example, a child who doesn’t say words clearly or an adult who slurs their speech after an accident.

Language: involves the exchange of ideas using words, usually in spoken or written form.  For example, a child who has trouble understanding or telling a story, or an adult who has trouble following instructions or finding the right words after a stroke.

Literacy: involves communicating in written form by reading and understanding what is read.

Social Communication: refers to how we communicate and involves understanding the social rules of communication, interpreting the context of a conversation and understanding the non-verbal information which is needed to develop a relationship with another person.

Fluency: commonly called stuttering. This difficulty is usually first noticed when a child starts putting sentences together around 2 years of age, however it can persist into adulthood.

Voice: using the voice box or vocal cords to produce sound for speech. For example, a person who regularly loses their voice or a person who has had surgery for throat cancer.


Interesting Communication facts in Australia (quoted from Speech Pathology Association of Australia website):

•             20% of four year old children have difficulty understanding or using language

•           14% of 15 year olds have only basic literacy skills

•           28% of teachers take time off work each year because of voice problems

•           13,000 Australians use electronic communication aids to get  their message across

•          Children with a language impairment are six times more likely to have a reading                         problem than children without

•           46% of young Australian offenders have a language impairment

•           There  is a high correlation between communication difficulties and poor mental                      health

•           Three  in every 1,000 newborns have hearing loss, which without intervention can                    affect their speech, language and literacy.

•           Indigenous children have three times more hearing problems than non-indigenous               children.

Causes of communication impairment

There  are many different causes of communication impairment. Some include:

•           Neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, Down syndrome & cerebral palsy

•           Medical conditions such as vocal nodules or cleft palate

•           Hearing impairment

•           Degenerative neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s or  Parkinson’s   Disease

•           Damage to the brain due to accident or illness

Communication impairment can sometimes run in families and sometimes the   

cause is unknown. It can also sometimes be misunderstood and misdiagnosed.


Impacts of communication impairment

The impact of communication impairment can vary from mild to severe, with difficulties that can be short-term or last a lifetime. Even mild communication impairment can have a severe impact on how a person functions in their daily life, like speaking in class, ordering a meal, socialising with others or finding work.

Communication impairment can impact on interactions socially, at home and at work.

Speech and  language difficulties  can affect learning at school, including literacy, mathematics and social interactions with peers. Long- term consequences of speech and language impairment include poor academic achievement, reduced employment options, social isolation and risk to mental health.

People with communication impairment can suffer embarrassment, frustration, anger and grief trying to communicate their ideas, opinions and needs. Other people can misunderstand a communication impairment and react insensitively and inappropriately to the person who is trying to communicate.

Early  intervention is the key – to preventing or reducing the lifelong implications for many   Australians living with communication impairment.

Speech pathologists help – Speech pathologists are the specialists trained to assess, advise, treat and advocate for people with communication impairment, and  their families.

To make an appointment with a Speech pathologist at ‘Speech Bubble’ speech therapy, call 0416 071 166 or email speechbubble@hotmail.com.au.